Proceedings Report: Educational Programme on a Semi-arid Environment Susceptible to Climate Change in Northeast Asia 25 August - 3 September 2012, Horqin Sandy Land, Inner Mongolia, China
Climate change is unambiguous in the northeast Asian nations of Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan. However, geography, economics, and cultural issues create significant differences when it comes to the ultimate effects of climate change in each country, and similarly constrain the resources available to tackle the problem. In many cases the effects are local and can be responded to at the level of a community or local government. At the same time there are many instances where the effects of climate change are regional and cross national borders, meaning that cooperation between countries is necessary.
Climate change is expected to cause various new problems, such as sea level rise and species extinction, but is equally likely to exacerbate existing problems. One such example is desertification, which is already one of the severest environmental problems in the world including northeast Asia. The definition of desertification by the Convention to Combat Desertification is “land degradation in arid, semiarid, and dry subhumid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.” IPCC (2007a, b) showed that those dry areas are susceptible to climate change, and Xu et al. (2011) said that climate change is a major driving force in desertification, just as influential as human activities. In northeast Asia, China has most suffered from desertification for a long time, but other northeast Asian countries have also been affected in the form of dust storms from China. In this way desertification has had both local and cross-border influences, and now each country pays much attention to it.
Japan has previously cooperated with China in combatting desertification at the government, academic, and grass-root levels. Unfortunately, some of the Japanese projects were not effective because they were often narrow-minded and one sided, aimed exclusively at the photogenic task of planting trees without duly considering local socio-ecological conditions. In recent years, however, Japanese researchers, NPOs, and NGOs have worked together with local people such as local governments, researchers, and residents in order to develop a better outcome. In this context a central challenge is the integration of the many individual approaches, each separately made by the different levels or stakeholders. The first step to achieve some kind of integration is to understand each approach and gain a holistic point of view.
The RCCCA was founded in part to address adaptation issues, primarily through training and network building at the scale of communities and through academic connections. In this sense, we organized an educational programme for students to study desertification, and adaptation to it, in cooperation with different local stakeholders. This programme was carried out in the Horqin Sandy Land from 25 August to 3 September 2012 and consisted of fieldwork and a workshop. The Horqin Sandy Land is one of the most desertified regions in the world and as a result many researchers, practitioners, and local governments work on desertification in the area. Those stakeholders supported the programme.